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In Fairytales, Friendship is Instrumental in Conquering Evil

May 21, 2021
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

“Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil.” –Baltasar Gracian

In the fairytale genre, friendship is love’s handmaiden. The true friend sees the importance of clearing the path for love to bloom. In most cases, the triumph of the lovers over evil is not only a satisfying romantic end for the two characters in love, but has far-reaching affects for the whole realm. Their love equals order restored and prosperity for the region over which they will govern.

A classic example of this trope is in Snow White – both in the original Brothers Grimm version and Disney’s more sanitized story.

The seven dwarfs become true friends of Snow White. They love and protect the young woman, offering her their home to share after her escape from the Evil Queen. They warn her about not talking to strangers or letting them in the house, although Snow White, ultimately, does not heed their advice. In the end, the dwarfs are instrumental not only in Snow White’s “awakening” after she eats the poisoned apple given to her by the disguised Queen, but in reuniting her with the Prince. The dwarfs become defacto heroes by making it possible not merely for Snow White to survive, but to take her righful place as the true princess of the realm. With the Prince and Snow White married and installed as rulers after the Evil Queen is deposed (and killed), the region once again is free to thrive.

Incidentally, in the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White, the Evil Queen is unmasked as the villain at the Prince and Snow White’s wedding. The Prince is a bit more of an Alpha in the original tale, and tortures the Evil Queen by making her dance in iron slippers that had been heated on the fire. She dies shortly after. Disney glossed over that bit 😉

“Romakaji” Part 7

By Yours Truly

“You can’t be serious,” Sybil said.

She could not take her eyes off of Count Furfur’s necklace, although the one Lionel gave Romakaji was far prettier in the water girl’s estimation.

“I am serious.”

Sybil shook her head and took a deep sip of the exquisite red wine that Romakaji’s lover had provided for them. “Romakaji, for such an old creature, you seem to lack any wisdom at all. Count Furfur will take you to hell forever if you do not take that necklace off before you or Lionel dies! If you thought you hated the pond, don’t you see how much worse is such a bargain? Do you not understand the concept of forever?”

Sybil could not stop shaking her head.

“My friend,” Romakaji said. “My first true friend in so long. You’re right to worry for me, and even be sad for me. But I am right in my valuation of forever. You judge forever by time, whereas I judge it by the bonds we make, and as I will love Lionel forever, I’m willing to give him forever.”

Sybil did not think she was right. In fact, Sybil thought the water girl had lost her mind. “Have you shared any of this with Lionel?”

Romakaji took the green stone of the necklace Lionel had given her, and held it in her hand, until it became as warm as her palm. “If I tell Lionel, we’ll never again be happy. He’ll either insist I take off the necklace, or the specter of my future will haunt our every waking moment as we try to enjoy the time we have left.”

This time Sybil did not merely take a drink of her wine, but finished the glass, then poured herself another.

“Romakaji, I understand that you wish to have a few happy years, but at some point Lionel will wonder why your aren’t aging. You’re going to have to tell him something.”

Romakaji knew there might come a time when she would have to tell him, and she dreaded that day. She didn’t want Lionel to feel responsible for her decision. The thought of him being happy made her happier than the thought of Count Furfur made her sad. But she also knew the nature of curses. Unless they were broken, they tended to tighten around the accursed’s neck. Just as she became more beautiful as the seconds ticked away, so did her choice regarding her future become more powerful. In time – she didn’t know how long – it would become harder and harder to take the Count’s necklace off of her own volition. She would be called to hell not when she was ready, when she and Lionel had had their fill of love (as if that was even possible), but when Count Furfur was ready. When he had drunk enough of the love he had made possible. One he could watch, but never experience for himself.

“Promise me,” Romakaji said. “That you won’t ever tell Lionel of my choice.”

“Romakaji, I don’t wish to promise any such thing.”

“Nevertheless, I want you to. As my truest and best friend, I ask that you honor my wishes. As a witch, I know you can’t lie when it comes to an oath between friends. Especially if those friends have shared magic.”

Sybil folded her hands and looked deeply into Romakaji’s eyes. “He will not hear it from my lips. I promise you.”

Sybil and Romakaji finished their wine, and made plans to see one another again by the weekend. Sybil was glad that her new friend would be living a fulfilled life while she was here in the physical realm – especially after having spent centuries in a small, cold body of water. But she could not be happy about Romakaji’s decision. Like any true friend, she wanted what was best for Romakaji, and knew that spending eternity at Count Furfur’s side was quite possibly the most terrible thing that could ever happen to her.

“I’m learning how to cook!” Romakaji said, cheerfully. As if she hadn’t condemned herself to be the wife of an Earl of Hell. “I should get started before Lionel comes home – I want to surprise him. Perhaps next time you come, you’ll join us for supper.”

Sybil smiled, and told her that would be lovely.

As she walked out of the cottage, she took a long, sorrowful breath. It was a beautiful day, one of the first that smelled of spring. Down the road, Sybil could see Lionel walking towards the cottage, a lightness to his step. The kind of buoyancy that comes from being in love, and looking forward to the moment he would lay eyes on Romakaji again – even if they’d only been apart for a few hours.

Sybil desperately wanted to tell him about what Romakaji had decided, what she was sacrificing for him. The moment she even had such a thought, her throat felt as if it was closing up on her. She couldn’t form a sound, let alone a word. Such was the bond of magic between two friends; the iron clasp of the word once a promise had been made.

She closed her eyes and tried to rid her thoughts of Romakaji and Lionel and Count Furfur. She uttered a prayer to all that is good in the world. When her eyelids fluttered open again, letting in the light, she noticed a small, yellow mushroom at her feet. It was growing from between the walking stones that led to the road.

Sybil bent down and pulled the mushroom from the earth, examining its smooth, white stem, as thick as a thumb. Black spots covered its cap like freckles. For a nature witch, a mushroom, as long as it wasn’t poisonous, was a fungus that denotes strong ties, particularly friendship. Sybil sniffed it deeply, then popped it into her mouth and ate it, thinking of Romakaji while she chewed.

Lionel walked into a house smelling of onions in butter, the venison he’d brought home from the market the day before, and…something else.

“My friend Sybil found some mushrooms growing in the yard.”

“Mushrooms?” Lionel marveled. “At this time of year?”

Romakaji had been cooking from a recipe book she’d purchased in town, and so far, her every effort had been delicious. She seemed to have a flare for flavors, and thought nothing of adding an ingredient, or taking one away if it didn’t suit her. The only thing she didn’t ever want to make was fish.

They sat down to eat and talked of Lionel’s research, of traveling to the far east together come summertime, and of the lunar eclipse that was coming in a few days. Romakaji loved the moon, as for the greater part of so many years – two hundred ninety-six years, twenty-one days, six hours and roughly twenty minutes – the moon and the fish in the pond had been her only company. She didn’t tell Lionel that part.

“The moon will turn red and be totally eclipsed for about fourteen minutes,” he told her. “We’ll have to stay up and watch it.”

Lionel remembered the last lunar eclipse he’d seen. It had been a couple of years earlier, and he’d made a wish on the moon that night. He wished that before the next total lunar eclipse came, he would find a love. Someone with whom he could spend his life.

He told Romakaji all about his wish, how it had come true, and she kissed him more than sweetly, more than passionately. She kissed him as if he meant everything to her – the sun, the moon, the stars. He was all of those things.

And as she kissed him, Romakaji remembered every detail of the last lunar eclipse she’d seen before she’d been cursed to the pond. Cressida had snuck her out of her house in just her shift. It was an unseasonably warm night. She’d brought nuts and an apple for them to eat, and they’d watched the entire event from the bridge over the pond that would become her home, her prison. They’d watched in awe as the moon turned as red as a sunset, and Cressida chanted a strange song that was one part whistle and one part wail.

“What was that?” Romakaji had asked her.

“An offering,” she’d said. “A nature witch should always sing an offering to the moon on the night of a total eclipse. It strengthens her powers and keeps them pure.”

Romakaji wished she had the power of a nature witch. If she did, she would do something good for Lionel. But as things stood, all she could do was give him her love. And as he laid down to sleep, his belly full of her venison and mushroom stew, she stroked his hair and looked at him with as much love as she could bear. She watched his eyes grow tired, and listened as his breath became slow and steady. His body heavy and still. As still as she had ever seen him as he slept.

Only he wasn’t sleeping. Not exactly. He was deep in a dream that was more like another world. So vivid that its wind cut through his flannel pajamas. The old burs on the ground dug into the soles of his feet, making him wince. It was an older world, where a young woman with stawberry locks of hair beckoned him. She told him that her name was Cressida, and put her fingers to her lips so that he’d know to be quiet. She took his hand and lead him deep into the forest.

“Where are we going?” He whispered.

“To Hell.”

Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

Tune in next week for the maybe, probably last episode of “Romakaji.”

And while you’re waiting, please listen to the latest COLD podcast. It’ll be the best quarter hour of your day.

4 Comments
  1. Wow. That yanked me around. 🙂

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